A few nights ago we attended a gig at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh to see Will Robert perform his first Scottish gig. As it was my first time at this music venue I was quite curious about the wheelchair accessibility.
The original date for the gig was back in January as part of Independent Venue Week, but it got rescheduled to 14th April. I wanted to check that the venue had wheelchair access before I booked tickets, so I messaged them on Facebook.
They informed me that they are fairly accessible with just one small step in and then easy access straight to the stage from there. They also told me that the toilet cubicles are not widened as the venue is tiny and they don’t have space to do it. The nearest accessible toilet is at Three Sisters, which is a pub around the corner.
A little awareness goes a long way
Not convinced that my wheelchair would manage the “small step” I tried to look for images of the entrance online. Although I have a powered wheelchair it can sometimes struggle to climb up curbs due to the battery underneath. I sent another Facebook message asking if they had a portable wheelchair ramp and whether the step was quite low.
To my surprise, they responded positively “We don’t I’m afraid. I think it would be a good thing for us to get, though, are you aware of a good place to source one?.” Before I could reply with my recommendations they messaged me again just a few minutes later to say they had found two online at 2ft and 4ft and asked what I thought would be best.
Sneaky Pete’s was happy to purchase the portable wheelchair ramp as they realised “its something that we should have here, and it would actually be quite helpful for loading bands in etc too.”
This is a great attitude for a venue to have towards disabled customers and how they can better meet their access needs. A simple portable wheelchair ramp costing around £40 isn’t a lot of money for a business, but it makes such a big difference to whether wheelchair users can actually access the venue or not.
Having the portable ramp allows so many other wheelchair users and people with disabilities to attend, which in turn is giving the venue more business. Win-win! Sometimes venues aren’t aware that they’re not fully meeting the needs of disabled music fans, but giving them some guidance may be all that’s needed to make a big difference.
I think that Sneaky Pete’s could have more access information on their website and be part of the Access Starts Online campaign by Attitude is Everything. They only have the following access information on their website:
Get in touch if you have specific needs, we’ll do what we can to help. We offer free tickets for assistants and carers who help people who experience disadvantage or disability to see shows here, get in touch via the contact form.”
There was no parking near Sneaky Pete’s so we had to park at Castle Terrace where Edinburgh Farmers’ Market is held and directly below Edinburgh Castle. It took us around 15 minutes to walk to Sneaky Pete’s from here. I’m not a huge fan of Edinburgh streets as there tends to be a lot of uneven paths and curbs that aren’t dropped.
We were told that there would be a door steward working who would be able to assist with access on the night. When we arrived there wasn’t anyone outside, so my boyfriend went in to ask for the ramp to help me in. The door steward told us they didn’t have a portable ramp, but we explained that we were informed they did (I contacted the venue the day before the gig to double check they had actually purchased the ramp). He went back inside to check and then came out with ramp.
Treated to a private performance
The door steward was very helpful, but he didn’t know how the ramp worked or what was the top or the bottom. Finally, after a minute or so of me trying to explain how it works, I made my way up the ramp and inside the venue.
There was a woman sitting at a table who checked our ticket. We made our way past the bar to the stage area where we found a little corner with a bench that my boyfriend and our friend sat on. Will Robert was just getting set up as we arrived and we noticed that the venue was pretty empty with only 5 other people there. It was like our very own private gig.
We had a great view of the stage, but I highly doubt this would be the case for a sold-out show as there is no dedicated viewing area for disabled and wheelchair users due to how small the venue is.
Will Robert put on a great show as he performed with Mike who played guitar and keyboard. Between songs, Will chatted to us and told funny stories including his near-death experience when he was in Glasgow. His beautiful and gentle folky tones reminded me of Newton Faulkner and Ben Howard. He quit his job a few years ago to focus on his music career and I wish him all the best for his future. He is such a genuine talent and cool guy. If you get the chance to see Will Robert perform…do it!
I felt like the staff, in particular, the door steward should have been informed that the venue did, in fact, have a portable wheelchair ramp (they were buying it in January and I attended in April). It makes me wonder if any wheelchair users have been turned away at the door after being told there is no portable wheelchair ramp when in fact there was. For safety reasons all staff, especially door staff should be shown the correct way to use them to prevent the ramps from moving as the wheelchair user drives up them.
We also asked the woman sitting at the ticket table on our way out if there was an accessible toilet (even though we knew there wasn’t) she told us she wasn’t sure if there was or not. To me, this shows that staff are either not given disability awareness training or they just aren’t interested.
Would I go back to Sneaky Pete’s? Possibly, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable if there was a bigger crowd or it was a sold-out show. I felt absolutely fine during the Will Robert gig because there were only a few other people and I had space to move around if I needed to. The door steward was pleasant but stood back until asked to help. I kind of got the impression that not many wheelchair users go to Sneaky Pete’s, but if you have been or go often I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.
I’d like to thank Sneaky Pete’s for purchasing a portable wheelchair ramp as it shows they care about their disabled customers and are keen to improve their accessibility (if only they were able to install an accessible toilet).